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Helping your child cope with medical experiences

The hospital or any medical experience can be a stressful and frightening place for anyone, especially a child. They may encounter new faces, scary equipment and overwhelming feelings of loss of control.

Did you know that there are professionals who aim to reduce negative effects of medical experiences that may affect the development, health and well-being of children and families? These professionals are called certified Child Life specialists and are available at most hospitals who serve children to help you and your child cope with these experiences.

Swedish has four full-time Child Life specialists who cover First Hill and Issaquah campuses from surgery to radiology to inpatient stays. At Swedish, our Child Life team strives to reach every pediatric patient who walks through our doors in an attempt to make their stay a little easier.

Here are some tips for parents on how to help your child cope with medical encounters:

What to do if you suspect your child has an ear infection

Ear infections are the most common illness in kids. Almost every child will have at least one ear infection by the age of 5. What do you do when your child complains of ear pain?

Ear pain in children is most often caused by a middle ear infection. These infections often follow an upper respiratory illness, like a cold or the flu. Common symptoms include fever, ear pain and irritability, like not sleeping through the night. It is possible for the buildup of pressure from fluid and infection behind the eardrum to cause the eardrum to rupture. In this situation you will most likely see drainage from the ear.

What should you do if you suspect your child has an ear infection?

  • Treat the pain. Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are best.
  • Have a doctor look in your child’s ear to confirm an ear infection.
  • Decide with your doctor...

Helping kids eat, thrive, and grow

Is your child under the age of 6 and having problems with feeding or weight gain? Swedish’s GAINS program can help you and your pediatrician by doing a full assessment and providing specific recommendations. The Growth and Integrated Nutrition Service at Swedish (GAINS) is a multidisciplinary program, which includes doctors, nurses, dietitians, behavioral specialists, and feeding therapists.

There are many medical conditions that lead to growth and nutrition problems in children. We are experts at working with children with:

  • Feeding difficulties
  • Poor weight gain
  • Malnutrition
  • Failure to thrive
  • Prematurity
  • Children with feeding tubes
  • Aspiration
  • Breastfeeding Difficulties

Here are some frequently asked questions about the GAINS program:

Free Class on Nutrition for Young Athletes to be Held at Swedish/Issaquah Feb. 20

ISSAQUAH, WA, Jan. 23, 2013 - With spring sports starting, don't drop the ball on nutrition. Nutrition is just as important as physical conditioning for athletes. So, as spring sports begin, let Swedish help you and your children prepare to hit it out of the park. Join Registered Dietitian Ally Colson for an interactive training on game-winning meals and snacks and help your young athlete become a nutrition champion.

Increasing Your Child’s Comfort with Nitrous Oxide

You may be familiar with “laughing gas” as something you find at the dentist’s office but did you know it can also be used when your child is a patient at Swedish? Laughing gas is a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen, but you might hear your pediatric nurses just call it “nitrous.” In pediatrics, we use it to help a patient relax and feel more comfortable during certain procedures such as IV placement or urinary catheterization.

Once your doctor or nurse has determined that your child is a good candidate for nitrous (without any contraindications such as conditions where air may be trapped in the body, pregnancy, or impaired level of consciousness), your nurses and certified child life specialist (CCLS) will explain the process: Your child will choose a flavor for the inside of their mask used to administer the gas. They will be on a stretcher or bed and have a saturation probe attached to a finger to monitor their oxygenation. One nurse will administer oxygen, then the nitrous, gradually increasing the amount until your child is suitably relaxed for the procedure, while remaining responsive to directions. Another clinician will perform the procedure, e.g., place the IV. A doctor is also available.

As a parent ...

Introducing solids to your infant

As your baby grows, you’ve probably started wondering when and how to start feeding your infant solid foods. Here are some general tips to consider:

Is there a safe age to start feeding solid foods to my infant?

Yes, most infants this is between four and six months of age.

Why is there a ‘safe’ age to start feeding solids?

There are a few reasons why this age is safest. The first reason is because prior to four months of age, an infant is not developmentally ready to safely eat from a spoon.

To be able to swallow solids safely, an infant needs good head control; to be able to sit well with support; and to have lost the “extrusion reflex” (the reflex which enables newborns to tightly latch and suck from a nipple, but makes them shove a spoon out of their mouth).

The second reason an infant should be fed solids between four and six months is something many families are not aware of: it is also a strategy to prevent common food allergies. This is one of the strongest reasons I passionately advocate for infants to be exposed to as many foods as possible during this crucial three-month window.

Starting solids and preventing food allergies:

In the past, healthcare providers have advised parents to avoid potential allergens such as peanuts, eggs, and milk. New evidence is now showing that this practice might have played a role in the increased incidence of childhood food allergies in the U.S

Why might this occur? The ...

Do Docs Miss Breast Cancer Warning Signs in Breastfeeding Mothers?

In the haze of joy and sleeplessness during the months after childbirth, thoughts about breast cancer are the last thing on a new mother’s mind. Her body is undergoing so many changes that, of course, she and her doctors would naturally assume any breast changes are related to breastfeeding.

Probably, they are. However, there is a small but real incidence of women who develop breast cancer during and following pregnancy. Often, they end up having delays in seeking evaluation and getting a diagnosis, because they or their doctors may not appreciate that risk!

So, what things should prompt an evaluation?

  • Lumps most often will be changes in the breast tissue as it revs up milk production. A distinct lump or “dominant mass” could be a clogged duct, galactocele, cyst or a common benign tumor called a fibroadenoma, but if it doesn’t resolve within a few weeks with treatment, it needs imaging.
  • Redness most often will represent infections like mastitis or an abscess, but if it doesn’t resolve within a few weeks with treatment, it will also need imaging and possibly a biopsy. At the very least, that could determine if the right antibiotics are being used. An uncommon form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer can present this way.
  • Bloody milk or baby refusing one breast  most often will be due to nipple trauma, latch issues, or positioning; if so, seeing a board-certified lactation consultant is appropriate. But rarely, this can represent a form of breast cancer within the milk ducts.
  • “Something’s not right”. You are the most knowledgeable person about your own breasts. Even if it doesn’t neatly fit one of the categories above, if something really seems wrong to you, your doctors should take that seriously.

What evaluation should be done?


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